(Buford, Ga.) – A sale featuring the self-taught and international folk art collection of renowned Hollywood film director Jonathan Demme (“Silence of the Lambs,””Philadelphia┝) will be held Saturday, November 10, by Slotin Auction. The sale has a start time of 10 a.m., and will be held at the Historic Buford Hall, 112 E. Shadburn Avenue in Buford. Buford is located just north of Atlanta.
Demme’s exhibition and accompanying book – titled “Island on Fire: Passionate Visions of Haiti From the Collection of Jonathan Demme” — underscore one of the most expansive collections of Haitian art in the United States. His frequent visits to Haiti resulted in the production of several film documentaries, including “Haiti: Dreams of Democracy.” About 300 of Demme’s items will be sold.
The auction will be a cataloged sale, meaning all 885 lots will be sold in the exact order they appear in the catalog. The Demme component will be a highlight, but many other important consignments will be sold. The sale will be dedicated entirely to self-taught art, including masterworks by more than 400 folk artists. All of Slotin’s auctions specialize in self-taught art and Southern pottery.


Judgment Day by Pauleus Vital

A few of the items from the Jonathan Demme Collection include:
• “Judgment Day” by Pauleus Vital (1918-1984) – Vital was a Haitian master painter, and this work served as cover art for Demme’s “Island on Fire” book. The oil on Masonite painting is incredibly detailed, depicting the dead breaking out of their coffins to face judgment. Vita’s paintings are quite rare. This one is dated, May 25, 1983, and measures 26” wide x 31” high (est. $8,000-$12,000).
• “Hippos” by Ellis Walter Ruley (1882-1959) – Ruley was an African-American primitive self-taught artist who lived in a predominantly white suburban neighborhood in Connecticut. He came into money thanks to an accident settlement, married a white woman and died a suspicious death. “Hippos” is oil on Masonite, 24” wide x 30” high and nicely framed (est. $18,000-$25,000).
• “Seven Headed Lion Beast With Ten Horns” by William Blaney (1917-1986) – One of two of Demme’s works by Blaney to be sold, this is an oil on canvas, done around 1960. Blaney, a part-time preacher, visually captured the imagery of Revelations 13: “And I stood upon the sand and sea, and saw a beast rise out of the sea having seven heads and ten horns” (est. $15,000-$20,000).
Demme’s dedication to his collection, especially Haitian art, is indisputable. He explained in a a letter to Steve and Amy Slotin, the owners of Slotin Auction, that he was regrettably selling off a portion of what he owns, because “no matter how much you continue to love each and every one of the hundreds of pieces you’ve painstakingly acquired over the years, eventually you’ve got to slim down.”
He continued, “Many people reading this note know this truth all too well. That, if you’re as obsessive as I surely am, the day comes when all the walls are full. You’ve got dozens-plus pieces out visiting friends and family all over the place, your closets are stuffed, and the basement and attic are tough to move around in. So here in Georgia is the first big wave of my oft-pondered art loss diet.”
Movie enthusiasts are familiar with Demme’s vast body of work. His first mainstream feature film was the quirky Howard Hughes movie “Melvin and Howard” (1980). He won the Oscar in 1991 for directing “Silence of the Lambs,” and he’s directed seven different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Mary Steenburgen, Jason Robards, Christine Lahti, Dean Stockwell, Anthony Hopkins, Jodie Foster and Tom Hanks. “Entertainment Weekly” named him the 45th greatest director of all time.
The sale will include much more than just Demme’s collection. Featured will be some of the most recognizable names in the rapidly burgeoning folk art genre, including Howard Finster, Sam Doyle, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Lanier and Arie Meaders, Billy Ray Hussey, Jimmy Lee Sudduth, Mose Tolliver, William Hawkins, Ralph Fasanella, Clementine Hunter, Daniel Pressley and others.
Some of the anticipated top lots include the following:
• Storage jar, signed and dated (April 25, 1861) by “Slave Dave” – The best guess as to the date of birth for this former African-American slave is around 1800. Over time, Dave was bought and sold by the Drake, Gibbs, Miles and Landrum families. It is believed he learned the art of pottery from the Drakes. He signed and dated over 100 jars, many of them 25-40 gallons (est. $35,000-$45,000).
• “Daniel Boone and Wolf Dogs” (circa 1962), by Howard Finster (1916-2001) – Finster’s work is always a huge draw at any folk art sale, and the Slotins have sold many of his paintings over the years. This unique and nice early number piece (#2604) is a paint on wooden panel work. It is contained in a wood-burned frame that was personally decorated by Finster (est. $20,000-$25,000).
• (Self-portrait, eating a watermelon), by Jimmy Lee Sudduth (1910-2007) – The folk art world was saddened with the recent passing of Mr. Sudduth, who died this summer at age 97 and whose paintings today are prized by collectors worldwide. He created art by applying mud and paint with his fingers to scrap board or found metals. He called his medium “sweet mud” (est. $2,000-$3,000).
• “The Shepherd’s Voice” by Sister Gertrude Morgan (1900-1980) – This is a fantastic acrylic on paper example, signed and with a long poem incorporated into the front (est. $15,000-$20,000).
• “Guede Spirits” (circa 1984) by Paul Claude Gardere – Gardere was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. At age 14, he moved to New York with his family, fleeing Papa Doc Duvalier’s repressive regime. There, he studied at the Art Students League under Charles Alston, who mentored the noted artist Jacob Lawrence. This oil on board work is framed and measures 34” x 48” (est. $8,000-$12,000).
• Sherion Rose Possum Trot Doll by Calvin Black (1903-1972) – This is a carved and painted wood doll, with silk fabric clothing, crochet knit hat, wig hair and a necklace with stone pendant. It’s been mounted on a stand with a homemade tag that says, “Miss Sherion Rose Possum Trot.” Black lived in California’s Mojave Desert. He created more than 80 life-size, moving dolls, which performed in a theatre he had specially built for them in the desert. This one stands 34” tall (est. $6,000-$12,000).
• Trapezoidal oil on wooden panel painting by an unknown artist, possibly Swiss – This is but one of a wonderful selection of interesting European paintings and Art Brut that will be offered in the sale. The work – depicting a cow, a girl with an umbrella and grotesque figures in a rural landscape – is as large as it is riveting: 80” across on bottom, 28” across on top, 68.5” tall (est. $8,000-$10,000).
• “Native American Women” by Dolona Roberts – This 32” x 32” pastel on paper work is in excellent condition and boasts very strong colors. Ms. Roberts’ trademark is her portrayal of the backs of Indian women draped in colorful and intricately designed blankets. Each blanket is a combination of geometric forms, including stripes, zigzags and diamonds (est. $3,000-$4,000).
• “Haitian Devil” (metal cutout) by Georges Liautaud, measures 24” w x 8.5” h (est. $1,000-$1,500).
Previews will be held on Thursday, November 8, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and on Friday, November 9, from 10 a.m.-9 p.m., at the Historic Buford Hall in Buford. On auction day, November 10, doors will open at 8 a.m. The sale will begin promptly at 10 a.m. Admission is free and a complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner, and drinks, will be served. A free 100-page color catalog is available by calling (404) 403-4244, or (770) 532-1115, or by e-mailing [email protected]
Slotin Auction has two more sales planned, for February and May, with firm dates yet to be set. The February sale will be “the craziest, wildest, quirkiest auction we’ve ever had,” promised Amy Slotin, “a true assembling of all things weird and odd in the world of folk art.” The March auction, she said, will be their annual Spring Self-Taught Art Masterpieces Sale, typically a huge industry event.

Slotin Auction hosts 3-4 major sales a year, all of them specializing in self-taught art and Southern folk pottery. To learn more about the company and its upcoming auctions, click online at To consign an item, estate or collection, you may call the firm directly, at (404) 403-4244. The e-mail address is [email protected] Slotin Auction utilizes for its Internet bidding platform. Phone and absentee bids are also accepted.